Medical Compared With Surgical Abortion for Effective Pregnancy Termination in the First Trimester

Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Jul;126(1):22-8. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000910.


Objective: To compare efficacy between medical and surgical abortion at 9 weeks of gestation or less.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study comparing efficacy of medical compared with surgical abortion before 64 days of gestation at Planned Parenthood, Los Angeles, from November 2010 to August 2013. Electronic medical records were reviewed for ongoing pregnancies after the initial abortion procedure. Data were also collected on complications occurring within the immediate postabortal period (8 weeks postabortal) including unanticipated aspiration and major adverse events (emergency department presentation, hospitalization, perforation, transfusion, infection). Chi square test and logistic regression were used to compare the primary outcomes between cohorts.

Results: Data were collected from 30,146 women with pregnancies seeking termination before 64 days of gestation. Sociodemographic and clinical characteristics were similar in the medication and surgical abortion groups. Efficacy of pregnancy termination was 99.6% for medication abortions and 99.8%% for surgical abortions (P<.001). The medication abortion group was more likely to undergo an unanticipated aspiration, for ongoing pregnancy or persistent pain, bleeding, or both (2.1% compared with 0.6%, respectively, odds ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval 1.1-2.3). These rates were unchanged after controlling for gravidity, parity, and body mass index. There was no difference in major adverse events between the two groups.

Conclusion: Medication abortion and surgical abortion before 64 days of gestation are both highly effective with low complication rates.

Level of evidence: II.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents* / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / methods*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Abortifacient Agents